With four minutes, 28 seconds left in the fourth quarter in its home opener against Greene County, the Nevada football team received a bad omen.
The Cubs were leading the Rams 35-32 when the lights at Cub Stadium suddenly went out.
After about a 20-minute delay, the lights powered back up and Greene County had the ball second-and-10 at its own 32. Two plays later, Ram running back Colby Kafer broke free on a 57-yard touchdown.
Greene County went on to pull off a 42-41 thriller to give the Cubs a heartbreaking loss.
But the Nevada players and coaches weren’t too upset after the game. They had rallied from 25-7 down to take the lead and nearly pulled it off against a team that went 8-2 and made the playoffs last season.
“We have a lot of guys that just want to play and they’re all tough,” Nevada senior quarterback Kody Kruschwitz said. “I think we’re just finding out we’re going to do whatever it takes to win.”
Last year Kruschwitz turned in a record-setting passing year with 2,247 yards and 20 touchdowns through the air. But Nevada only went 3-6.
This year the mentality is completely different. Nevada will throw the ball when it has to, but the Cubs want to hit teams in the mouth and withstand their opponents’ best shots.
“Physicality has been our theme this year,” Nevada head coach Andrew Kleeman said. “We definitely showed that tonight.”
Nevada (1-1) hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2013. But the Cubs played like a team that knew how to win on Friday.
Greene County put up over 600 yards of offense. Kafer ran for an amazing 337 yards on his own.
But the Cubs endured by finishing plus-four in the turnover battle. They also were penalized half as many times as the Rams and executed better on special teams.
And Nevada just refused to stop fighting.
Greene County appeared to have the game wrapped up after Cael Fisher nailed a 25-yard field goal with 35 seconds left to go up 42-35. To make matters worse for Nevada, Kruschwitz was injured after scoring the go-ahead touchdown earlier in the quarter and unable to go back onto the field.
But on the first play of Nevada’s ensuing possession the Cubs pulled off the old hook-and-ladder, resulting in a stunning 66-yard touchdown by Lucas Rogers with 23 seconds left.
With Kruschwitz hurt - he is also the team’s kicker - Kleeman decided to take a gamble on the extra point and opted to go for two and the win. But Greene County stuffed a Cub running attempt and then recovered an onside kick to end the game.
“It’s worth a shot every single time,” Rogers said. “All my guys on this team gave everything they had. Sometimes it just doesn’t pan out.”
The ending may not have gone Nevada’s way. But it let the Cubs know they can be a serious player Class 2A District 7 even though three of its teams - Benton, Union and West Marshall - made the playoffs last year.
“I think it really shows that the culture of football here is changing,” Kruschwitz said. “We obviously faced an extreme deficit and we wanted to come back and win. We wanted to give ourselves a shot and we just played through it.”
Nevada has an excellent opportunity to bounce back next week. The Cubs travel to Perry to face a Bluejay team that lost to Greene County 54-0 in its opener.